Why Theatres Need to Start Allowing Cell Phone Use During Movies!

I am sure that at the outset this seems like an absolutely horrible idea to 99% of the people reading this article. Mobile phones are the bane of the movie viewing public and have been since the late nineties. But please bare with me.

Everyone has experienced that dreadful moment when the unaware millenial / absent minded gen-x’er / mobile newbie senior who is sitting in the middle of the fucking theatre has forgotten to silence their phone.

As soon as they realize it’s them they start this panic-laden search while a treble heavy version of Super Bass just seems to get louder and louder. Then they finally find it just as the ringer times out.

I know, it’s infuriating!

So what am I getting at here.

Well, no one can deny that mobile phone usage is continuing to grow both in the number of people using (4.77 billion in 2017), and how often they use it (over 4 hrs per day!). Therefore it might seem like a social imperative to hold on to the mobile free zone that is the movie theatre.

However, I believe that it is pointless to resist such powerful trends. The best strategy is to determine what is the best way to take advantage of this movement and provide value for your customers.

So I have a proposition for the movie viewing public. Let me break it down into a few simple requirements.

  1. First of all, not every showing of a movie needs to be a cell phone friendly environment. There should be very specific times, or even particular days. We already have cheap Tuesdays, why not Mobile Mondays. And these need to be made very clear to the purchasing public. We don’t want an unsuspecting customer forking out 50 bucks on tickets for his family only to find himself in a room with a 150 people on their cells during the entire flick.
  2. It would be ideal if Samsung, Apple, or Huawei  could create a ‘theatre mode’ for their phones. Just like we have airplane mode today, but instead it could feature a very dimly lit screen, no sound or vibration, short video capability (to prevent live streaming), and retain wifi accessibility.
  3. An app would be developed to guide the interaction for everyone in the theatre. They would have to register on the app to participate and to gain access to the wifi.

That doesn’t seem so difficult now does it?

Now what? Would theatres go to all this trouble giving everyone access to their phones in theatres so they can surf on Facebook or text their friends?

Not at all.

In fact I am picturing a much more interactive environment. Perhaps, in concept, somewhat like the audience participation when there is a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but totally different in reality.

I have several ideas of what might happen if theatres allowed people to use their mobile phone interact with the movie they’re watching.

  • They could make a short video of their own reaction to certain scenes in the movie and immediately upload to their social media accounts. Like someone watching in awe as Darth Vader kicks ass at the end of Rogue One
  • Upload certain pre-approved scenes with commentary of what just went down. Their choice to play spoiler or not.
  • Ongoing poll during the movie of what scene to replay. The movie would provide the possibilities and if the audience vote gets above 80% on any option the movie stops and replays that scene. Then it resumes exactly where they left off.
  • The audience could order food & drink and have it delivered straight to your seat by one of the theatre staff.
  • A movie could create several after credit scenes and have the audience choose which one they see.

I am sure that is just the beginning and there are plenty of other great ideas out there.

Now I totally understand that this will not be for everyone and that this type of interaction will likely create a raucous environment in the theatre. But as long as everyone buys their ticket aware of what is going to happen I don’t believe anyone will be upset about it.

In this world where mobile phones are absolutely everywhere it seems counter intuitive to have such a large mobile-free zone. Especially since the primary target audience of the modern blockbuster film are very heavy cell phone users.

What do you think?


Image: Tyler Olson/Shutterstock


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